TV History - Questions

with big events like Olympics, Melbourne Cup, etc. ABC would seek to extend any commercial network coverage to remote areas not covered by commercial television. In those instances I imagine it was just a straight relay of the commercial coverage but I guess running their own content/promos in lieu of commercial breaks.

But the cricket was as @Radiohead described in that ABC had its own commentators/coverage in parallel to Nine’s and ABC’s coverage certainly wasn’t as glossy as Nine’s in terms of presentation.


And I don’t know if it was just my local ABC TV channel, but the picture didn’t look as crisp as Channel Nine’s, the colours looked a bit washed out (not enough contrast).

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When we were watching ABC coverage in the country it was on a black and white TV with just ok reception, so I am not in a position to comment on the quality of ABC’s picture compared to Nine’s :slight_smile:

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When the 1984 Olympics was held in Los Angeles, the ABC took Network 10’s coverage in remote regional areas where there was no commercial television (Imparja TV and QQQ/Seven Central were not established until 1988, and GWN in those days was restricted to the South West. Geraldton and Kalgoorlie had their own commercial stations), but instead of commercials, Ten screened fillers to these ABC stations. There was an article in the Olympics History thread which mentions this fact.


It wasn’t just outback areas affected, either. King Island, north of Tasmania, in 1984 only had an ABC channel (ABKT11) and no commercial TV. Apparently they were not among those to benefit from an arrangement for ABC to relay Olympics coverage but the community campaigned hard and the ABC did come to a solution. I will need to refresh my memory what it was, as I don’t think it was as simple as just flicking a switch to relay the Network Ten coverage to that sole ABC transmitter.


I thought King Islanders would receive either Melbourne TV or TNT9 or any of its translators?

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if they had a big/strong enough antenna they could have, I suppose, but other than that it was just a local ABC station. And for whatever reason, TNT9 wasn’t in any hurry to install a translator station there. Might have been a costly exercise.

I was known once to receive TNT9 from Aireys Inlet, on the Victorian coast, with just an indoor antenna, but I think that was just a lucky once-off occasion. I don’t believe that was a regular occurrence.


From the ABC 1984-85 annual report


In February 1981, Seven began an eight-part series Gunston’s Australia featuring Garry McDonald (in character as Norman Gunston) visiting different parts of the country, meeting the locals and generally mocking the people and locations. Apparently it performed badly in the ratings and viewer feedback was so negative that it was pulled after six episodes. Do we know if the series was ever repeated - or if it was bought by any regional stations? I’m just curious to know if the final two episodes were ever transmitted anywhere in Australia.

Incidentally, the UK’s then fledgling station Channel Four purchased the series and screened all eight episodes in February-March 1983.

Garry McDonald was the man behind Norman Gunston.

Indeed. I knew that, honestly - senior moment!

Sounds like Garry McDonald was ahead of his time - that could have turned into Sh*t Towns of Australia!

hard to give a definitive answer to that. At the time while networks existed each member station was largely autonomous in terms of programming, so even if Seven in one city stopped airing the series short of the full 8 episodes, that does not mean that other Seven stations did the same. Indeed, if any regional stations picked up the show, it would have been up to them to choose to air the series in its entirety, or not.

If it was dumped or as poorly rated as suggested, it was probably unlikely to get a re-screening although there was a possibility it might have been played over the summer non-ratings period, but again it would have been largely up to each member station to make that call.

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In 1981 Network Ten had an Australian comedy show Ratbags which was shown in Sydney and Adelaide (not sure about TV0 Brisbane) but never aired in Melbourne. Like Gunston’s Australia it did not last long.
Youtube: Folk Rock

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Looking at those videos, I think ATV10 dodged a bullet there! I can’t imagine why Ratbags didn’t take off :thinking: And not the McElroys’ finest work, though probably one of their first TV ventures. Hal McElroy went on to produce Return To Eden a few years later.

Ironically, some of the cast members from Ratbags went on to more success with Australia You’re Standing In It on ABC a few years later.

Ratbags also aired in a late night slot on Seven in Perth two years later - there is evidence of this on YT

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Thanks @TelevisionAU. All those factors did cross my mind. I know that episodes 1-6 played 19th February-26th March in, I assume, Sydney (the show was made my ATN7) but I’m not sure at all about other states or local stations. I’ve checked the available listings on your site and on here (those I’ve managed to bring up in searches, anyway) and that’s not many available for this time period (of course, it could have been scheduled later in the year by some channels, or even the following year).

My query isn’t related to Wikipedia, but far too often I see information on there and similar sites about Australian transmission dates for shows, which only apply to say Sydney and/or Melbourne. I suppose the “official” transmission date would be when a show aired on its “home” station (eg. Home and Away on ATN7, Neighbours on ATV10) but even then there would be many anomalies. Just because Neighbours (for example) is a “Melbourne show”, it’s produced by an independent company so is it really seen as an ATV10 show? In theory it could easily be played in Sydney (or Perth or Brisbane) before it was shown in Melbourne.

I remember a friend from the UK visiting Australia in the early 90s and of course people back home wanted to known if she’d seen H&A and Neighbours and asking what was going to happen in 12-18 months time in the UK. However, she had stayed somewhere out in the bush (regional WA, I think) and found that the episodes playing there were further behind than the UK!!


In many cases it was Sydney and/or Melbourne where most network shows debuted ahead of other cities, and sometimes shows didn’t even debut first in their “home” city. Prisoner debuted in Sydney a day ahead of Melbourne, where it was made.

Kingswood Country, a sitcom made in Sydney, debuted in Melbourne ten days before in Sydney.

The '60s spy drama Hunter, made in Melbourne, debuted first in Adelaide.

These are just the ones I could think of, there would have been many others. But the launch of the Aussat satellite, changes to media ownership laws and more sophisticated networking arrangements pretty much saw most cities being largely aligned by the late '80s or early '90s. Although cities like Perth still held some anomalies as some legacy program deals with Perth Channels 7 and 9 were still working their way through even after Channel 10 arrived there.


Was it the launch of the satellite that allowed for a network feed and shows to be played out to more than one market simultaneously from a single location? If not, when did this come about? Perth was able to get clean feeds of the Sydney channels too from a certain point and used this to record and timeshift programming. I know there was a coaxial cable link between Melbourne and Sydney very early in the day, but it wasn’t used to simulcast programs.

How was the news networked to regional stations back in the day? Evidently via a microwave link or similar - although I think this could only carry a single line in some cases which meant, for example, all QLD stations had to take the same bulletin from Brisbane.

The Aussat satellite system which launched in 1985-6 certainly made it more efficient to send programs to all cities instantaneously, rather than using complicated microwave networks or landline connections - although they probably still had some role to play. IIRC Tasmania still had microwave links to the mainland for relay of national programs even after Aussat came on.

That was the case in Queensland, where the regional centres all up the coast (and across to Mt Isa and Darwin) were had the same link. The exception was Toowoomba which was close to Brisbane and IIRC was able to take off-air relays from the Brisbane channels so it didn’t have to follow the same program relays as the other regional stations.

TBH I am not sure how it worked in other states. With the Victorian regional channels having like a spoke-hub model with Melbourne in the middle, it might not have been very efficient to run a microwave link around the state. GLV, for instance, was able to take off-air relays from Melbourne, but am not sure how possible that was for Ballarat, Bendigo and Shepparton. It certainly wouldn’t have been possible to Mildura and Albury. Maybe there were separate links out from Melbourne to each town? I don’t know.

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